The Lottery and Other Stories by Shirley Jackson


  “Oh, hello,” Mrs. Tylor said to the lady still standing on the sidewalk next to the little boy. “I heard Carol talking to someone….”

  “The children were making friends,” the lady said shyly.

  Mrs. Tylor came down the steps to stand near Carol at the fence. “Are you our new neighbor?”

  “If we ever get moved in,” the lady said. She laughed. “Moving day,” she said expressively.

  “I know. Our name’s Tylor,” Mrs. Tylor said. “This is Carol.”

  “Our name is Harris,” the lady said. “This is James Junior.”

  “Say hello to James,” Mrs. Tylor said.

  “And you say hello to Carol,” Mrs. Harris said.

  Carol shut her mouth obstinately and the little boy edged behind his mother. Both ladies laughed. “Children!” one of them said, and the other said, “Isn’t it the way!”

  Then Mrs. Tylor said, gesturing at the moving van and the two men moving in and out with chairs and tables and beds and lamps, “Heavens, isn’t it terrible?”

  Mrs. Harris sighed. “I think I’ll just go crazy.”

  “Is there anything we can do to help?” Mrs. Tylor asked. She smiled down at James. “Perhaps James would like to spend the afternoon with us?”

  “That would be a relief,” Mrs. Harris agreed. She twisted around to look at James behind her. “Would you like to play with Carol this afternoon, honey?” James shook his head mutely and Mrs. Tylor said to him brightly, “Carol’s two older sisters might, just might take her to the movies, James. You’d like that, wouldn’t you?”

  “I’m afraid not,” Mrs. Harris said flatly. “James does not go to movies.”

  “Oh, well, of course,” Mrs. Tylor said, “lots of mothers don’t, of course, but when a child has two older….”

  “It isn’t that,” Mrs. Harris said. “We do not go to movies, any of us.”

  Mrs. Tylor quickly registered the “any” as meaning there was probably a Mr. Harris somewhere around, and then her mind snapped back and she said blankly, “Don’t go to movies?”

  “Mr. Harris,” Mrs. Harris said carefully, “feels that movies are intellectually retarding. We do not go to movies.”

  “Naturally,” Mrs. Tylor said. “Well, I’m sure Carol wouldn’t mind staying home this afternoon. She’d love to play with James. Mr. Harris,” she added cautiously, “wouldn’t object to a sandbox?”

  “I want to go to the movies,” Carol said.

  Mrs. Tylor spoke quickly. “Why don’t you and James come over and rest at our house for a while? You’ve probably been running around all morning.”

  Mrs. Harris hesitated, watching the movers. “Thank you,” she said finally. With James following along behind her, she came through the Tylers’ gate, and Mrs. Tylor said, “If we sit in the garden out back we can still keep an eye on your movers.” She gave Carol a small push. “Show James the sandbox, dear,” she said firmly.

  Carol took James sullenly by the hand and led him over to the sandbox. “See?” she said, and went back to kick the fence pickets deliberately. Mrs. Tylor sat Mrs. Harris in one of the garden chairs and went over and found a shovel for James to dig with.

  “It certainly feels good to sit down,” Mrs. Harris said. She sighed. “Sometimes I feel that moving is the most terrible thing I have to do.”

  “You were lucky to get that house,” Mrs. Tylor said, and Mrs. Harris nodded. “We’ll be glad to get nice neighbors,” Mrs. Tylor went on. “There’s something so nice about congenial people right next door. I’ll be running over to borrow cups of sugar,” she finished roguishly.

  “I certainly hope you will,” Mrs. Harris said. “We had such disagreeable people next door to us in our old house. Small things, you know, and they do irritate you so.” Mrs. Tylor sighed sympathetically. “The radio, for instance,” Mrs. Harris continued, “all day long, and so loud.”

  Mrs. Tylor caught her breath for a minute. “You must be sure and tell us if ours is ever too loud.”

  “Mr. Harris cannot bear the radio,” Mrs. Harris said. “We do not own one, of course.”

  “Of course,” Mrs. Tylor said. “No radio.”

  Mrs. Harris looked at her and laughed uncomfortably. “You’ll be thinking my husband is crazy.”

  “Of course not,” Mrs. Tylor said. “After all, lots of people don’t like radios; my oldest nephew, now, he’s just the other way—”

  “Well,” Mrs. Harris said, “newspapers, too.”

  Mrs. Tylor recognized finally the faint nervous feeling that was tagging her; it was the way she felt when she was irrevocably connected with something dangerously out of control: her car, for instance, on an icy street, or the time on Virginia’s roller skates…. Mrs. Harris was staring absent-mindedly at the movers going in and out, and she was saying, “It isn’t as though we hadn’t ever seen a newspaper, not like the movies at all; Mr. Harris just feels that the newspapers are a mass degradation of taste. You really never need to read a newspaper, you know,” she said, looking around anxiously at Mrs. Tylor.

  “I never read anything but the—”

  “And we took The New Republic for a number of years,” Mrs. Harris said. “When we were first married, of course. Before James was born.”

  “What is your husband’s business?” Mrs. Tylor asked timidly.

  Mrs. Harris lifted her head proudly. “He’s a scholar,” she said. “He writes monographs.”

  Mrs. Tylor opened her mouth to speak, but Mrs. Harris leaned over and put her hand out and said, “It’s terribly hard for people to understand the desire for a really peaceful life.”

  “What,” Mrs. Tylor said, “what does your husband do for relaxation?”

  “He reads plays,” Mrs. Harris said. She looked doubtfully over at James. “Pre-Elizabethan, of course.”

  “Of course,” Mrs. Tylor said, and looked nervously at James, who was shoveling sand into a pail.

  “People are really very unkind,” Mrs. Harris said. “Those people I was telling you about, next door. It wasn’t only the radio, you see. Three times they deliberately left their New York Times on our doorstep. Once James nearly got it.”

  “Good Lord,” Mrs. Tylor said. She stood up. “Carol,” she called emphatically, “don’t go away. It’s nearly time for lunch, dear.”

  “Well,” Mrs. Harris said. “I must go and see if the movers have done anything right.”

  Feeling as though she had been rude, Mrs. Tylor said, “Where is Mr. Harris now?”

  “At his mother’s,” Mrs. Harris said. “He always stays there when we move.”

  “Of course,” Mrs. Tylor said, feeling as though she had been saying nothing else all morning.

  “They don’t turn the radio on while he’s there,” Mrs. Harris explained.

  “Of course,” Mrs. Tylor said.

  Mrs. Harris held out her hand and Mrs. Tylor took it. “I do so hope we’ll be friends,” Mrs. Harris said. “As you said, it means such a lot to have really thoughtful neighbors. And we’ve been so unlucky.”

  “Of course,” Mrs. Tylor said, and then came back to herself abruptly. “Perhaps one evening soon we can get together for a game of bridge?” She saw Mrs. Harris’s face and said, “No. Well, anyway, we must all get together some evening soon.” They both laughed.

  “It does sound silly, doesn’t it,” Mrs. Harris said. “Thanks so much for all your kindness this morning.”

  “Anything we can do,” Mrs. Tylor said. “If you want to send James over this afternoon.”

  “Perhaps I shall,” Mrs. Harris said. “If you really don’t mind.”

  “Of course,” Mrs. Tylor said. “Carol, dear.”

  With her arm around Carol she walked out to the front of the house and stood watching Mrs. Harris and James go into their house. They both stopped in the doorway and waved, and Mrs. Tylor and Carol waved back.

  “Can’t I go to the movies,” Carol said, “please, Mother?”

  “I’ll go with you, dear,” Mrs. Tylor said.
>
  Pillar Of Salt

  FOR SOME REASON a tune was running through her head when she and her husband got on the train in New Hampshire for their trip to New York; they had not been to New York for nearly a year, but the tune was from farther back than that. It was from the days when she was fifteen or sixteen, and had never seen New York except in movies, when the city was made up, to her, of penthouses filled with Noel Coward people; when the height and speed and luxury and gaiety that made up a city like New York were confused inextricably with the dullness of being fifteen, and beauty unreachable and far in the movies.

  “What is that tune?” she said to her husband, and hummed it. “It’s from some old movie, I think.”

  “I know it,” he said, and hummed it himself. “Can’t remember the words.”

  He sat back comfortably. He had hung up their coats, put the suitcases on the rack, and had taken his magazine out. “I’ll think of it sooner or later,” he said.

  She looked out the window first, tasting it almost secretly, savoring the extreme pleasure of being on a moving train with nothing to do for six hours but read and nap and go into the dining-car, going farther and farther every minute from the children, from the kitchen floor, with even the hills being incredibly left behind, changing into fields and trees too far away from home to be daily. “I love trains,” she said, and her husband nodded sympathetically into his magazine.

  Two weeks ahead, two unbelievable weeks, with all arrangements made, no further planning to do, except perhaps what theatres or what restaurants. A friend with an apartment went on a convenient vacation, there was enough money in the bank to make a trip to New York compatible with new snow suits for the children; there was the smoothness of unopposed arrangements, once the initial obstacles had been overcome, as though when they had really made up their minds, nothing dared stop them. The baby’s sore throat cleared up. The plumber came, finished his work in two days, and left. The dresses had been altered in time; the hardware store could be left safely, once they had found the excuse of looking over new city products. New York had not burned down, had not been quarantined, their friend had gone away according to schedule, and Brad had the keys to the apartment in his pocket. Everyone knew where to reach everyone else; there was a list of plays not to miss and a list of items to look out for in the stores—diapers, dress materials, fancy canned goods, tarnish-proof silverware boxes. And, finally, the train was there, performing its function, pacing through the afternoon, carrying them legally and with determination to New York.

  Margaret looked curiously at her husband, inactive in the middle of the afternoon on a train, at the other fortunate people traveling, at the sunny country outside, looked again to make sure, and then opened her book. The tune was still in her head, she hummed it and heard her husband take it up softly as he turned a page in his magazine.

  In the dining-car she ate roast beef, as she would have done in a restaurant at home, reluctant to change over too quickly to the new, tantalizing food of a vacation. She had ice cream for dessert but became uneasy over her coffee because they were due in New York in an hour and she still had to put on her coat and hat, relishing every gesture, and Brad must take the suitcases down and put away the magazines. They stood at the end of the car for the interminable underground run, picking up their suitcases and putting them down again, moving restlessly inch by inch.

  The station was a momentary shelter, moving visitors gradually into a world of people and sound and light to prepare them for the blasting reality of the street outside. She saw it for a minute from the sidewalk before she was in a taxi moving into the middle of it, and then they were bewilderingly caught and carried on uptown and whirled out on to another sidewalk and Brad paid the taxi driver and put his head back to look up at the apartment house. “This is it, all right,” he said, as though he had doubted the driver’s ability to find a number so simply given. Upstairs in the elevator, and the key fit the door. They had never seen their friend’s apartment before, but it was reasonably familiar—a friend moving from New Hampshire to New York carries private pictures of a home not erasable in a few years, and the apartment had enough of home in it to settle Brad immediately in the right chair and comfort her with instinctive trust of the linen and blankets.

  “This is home for two weeks,” Brad said, and stretched. After the first few minutes they both went to the windows automatically; New York was below, as arranged, and the houses across the street were apartment houses filled with unknown people.

  “It’s wonderful,” she said. There were cars down there, and people, and the noise was there. “I’m so happy,” she said, and kissed her husband.

  They went sight-seeing the first day; they had breakfast in an Automat and went to the top of the Empire State building. “Got it all fixed up now,” Brad said, at the top. “Wonder just where that plane hit.”

  They tried to peer down on all four sides, but were embarrassed about asking. “After all,” she said reasonably, giggling in a corner, “if something of mine got broken I wouldn’t want people poking around asking to see the pieces.”

  “If you owned the Empire State building you wouldn’t care,” Brad said.

  They traveled only in taxis the first few days, and one taxi had a door held on with a piece of string; they pointed to it and laughed silently at each other, and on about the third day, the taxi they were riding in got a flat tire on Broadway and they had to get out and find another.

  “We’ve only got eleven days left,” she said one day, and then, seemingly minutes later, “we’ve already been here six days.”

  They had got in touch with the friends they had expected to get in touch with, they were going to a Long Island summer home for a week end. “It looks pretty dreadful right now,” their hostess said cheerfully over the phone, “and we’re leaving in a week ourselves, but I’d never forgive you if you didn’t see it once while you were here.” The weather had been fair but cool, with a definite autumn awareness, and the clothes in the store windows were dark and already hinting at furs and velvets. She wore her coat every day, and suits most of the time. The light dresses she had brought were hanging in the closet in the apartment, and she was thinking now of getting a sweater in one of the big stores, something impractical for New Hampshire, but probably good for Long Island.

  “I have to do some shopping, at least one day,” she said to Brad, and he groaned.

  “Don’t ask me to carry packages,” he said.

  “You aren’t up to a good day’s shopping,” she told him, “not after all this walking around you’ve been doing. Why don’t you go to a movie or something?”

  “I want to do some shopping myself,” he said mysteriously. Perhaps he was talking about her Christmas present; she had thought vaguely of getting such things done in New York; the children would be pleased with novelties from the city, toys not seen in their home stores. At any rate she said, “You’ll probably be able to get to your wholesalers at last.”

  They were on their way to visit another friend, who had found a place to live by a miracle and warned them consequently not to quarrel with the appearance of the building, or the stairs, or the neighborhood. All three were bad, and the stairs were three flights, narrow and dark, but there was a place to live at the top. Their friend had not been in New York long, but he lived by himself in two rooms, and had easily caught the mania for slim tables and low bookcases which made his rooms look too large for the furniture in some places, too cramped and uncomfortable in others.

  “What a lovely place,” she said when she came in, and then was sorry when her host said, “Some day this damn situation will let up and I’ll be able to settle down in a really decent place.”

  There were other people there; they sat and talked companionably about the same subjects then current in New Hampshire, but they drank more than they would have at home and it left them strangely unaffected; their voices were louder and their words more extravagant; their gestures, on the other hand, were smaller, a
nd they moved a finger where in New Hampshire they would have waved an arm. Margaret said frequently, “We’re just staying here for a couple of weeks, on a vacation,” and she said, “It’s wonderful, so exciting,” and she said, “We were terribly lucky; this friend went out of town just at the right….”

  Finally the room was very full and noisy, and she went into a corner near a window to catch her breath. The window had been opened and shut all evening, depending on whether the person standing next to it had both hands free; and now it was shut, with the clear sky outside. Someone came and stood next to her, and she said, “Listen to the noise outside. It’s as bad as it is inside.”

  He said, “In a neighborhood like this someone’s always getting killed.”

  She frowned. “It sounds different than before. I mean, there’s a different sound to it.”

  “Alcoholics,” he said. “Drunks in the streets. Fighting going on across the way.” He wandered away, carrying his drink.

  She opened the window and leaned out, and there were people hanging out of the windows across the way shouting, and people standing in the street looking up and shouting, and from across the way she heard clearly, “Lady, lady.” They must mean me, she thought, they’re all looking this way. She leaned out farther and the voices shouted incoherently but somehow making an audible whole, “Lady, your house is on fire, lady, lady.”

  She closed the window firmly and turned around to the other people in the room, raising her voice a little. “Listen,” she said, “they’re saying the house is on fire.” She was desperately afraid of their laughing at her, of looking like a fool while Brad across the room looked at her blushing. She said again, “The house is on fire,” and added, “They say,” for fear of sounding too vehement. The people nearest to her turned and someone said, “She says the house is on fire.”

 
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